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The employability agenda and beyond: what are universities for?

Olivier, Steve


Steve Olivier


In this paper, presented as a provocation for university leaders, I intend to stimulate thought and debate. As such, it is not necessarily a paper typical in the groves of Academe, evaluating and referencing contrasting preceding papers. While I draw on established concepts, I also present actual practice in higher education, relating this to political and quasi-economic matters. Ultimately, the paper is designed to provoke university leaders to question conventional wisdom, accepted practice and politico/social direction. It starts rather factually, describing the landscape of employability in higher education, and then introduces some political considerations. Conceptual points on graduate attributes follow, before I delve into matters more contested, such as the purpose of universities, with my thoughts presented in the context of the preceding points on employability. In short, I argue for institutional and sectoral autonomy, holding that slavishly following imposed agendas will ultimately reduce our institutions' contribution to economic wellbeing.


OLIVIER, S. 2014. The employability agenda and beyond: what are universities for? London: Leadership Foundation for Higher Education. Hosted on Advance HE [online]. Available from:

Report Type Discussion Paper
Online Publication Date Jul 31, 2014
Publication Date Jul 31, 2014
Deposit Date Jan 19, 2022
Publicly Available Date Feb 17, 2022
Publisher Leadership Foundation for Higher Education
Series Title Leadership Foundation for Higher Education stimulus paper series
Keywords Higher education; Graduate employability; Scotland
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This discussion paper has been published with the ISBN 9781906627621


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